Jim Jenkins, an independent candidate, is running to fill an open U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska. The seat is being vacated by Senator Mike Johanns (R) who has decided not to run for re-election when his term is finished.
The Republican primary will likely be a heated battle with a significant amount of outside money being spent and political conventional wisdom says that in a state as "red" as Nebraska, the victor of the Republican primary will be the odds-on favorite to join Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) in the Senate.
However, Jenkins is willing to challenge this. He believes that now is the time for a candidate who is not bound to either party and that Nebraska offers a unique opportunity for an independent candidate.
Nebraska is different than most states in that the state legislature is unicameral (only one house) and nonpartisan. Jenkins said that because of this, Nebraskans are prone to be a bit more independent-minded than their red status makes them appear. They are a bit more used to voting for the candidate rather than the party.
Even though running as an Independent offers challenges that those who adhere to the party structure don't face, Jenkins feels that these challenges just show how much needs to be changed in politics. He needs to collect 4,000 signatures in order to appear on the ballot, something Republicans and Democrats don't need to do.
Running as an independent is part of Jenkins' message. He feels that Americans need to change the way lawmakers are elected.
Jenkins and his campaign are banking on the idea that most people in the United States are centrist-moderates and that when you cut through all the rhetoric, most Midwesterners -- especially Cornhuskers -- are pragmatists. He feels that the political environment in Nebraska, and perhaps the country, is ripe for candidates who will choose "the good of the people over the good of the party".
According to Jenkins, Washington needs more moderates, but the current party structure is pushing elected officials to the far right or far left. This leaves DC void of moderate voices that are truly representative of the people."The most effective legislation, the greatest legislation has been bipartisan," he stated. Without moderate representation in Congress, bipartisanship is all, but dead right now.
Touching on the lack of bipartisanship, Jenkins pointed to the Affordable Care Act (known colloquially as Obamcare) stating that the Democrats "just rammed it through" without getting any significant Republican support and because of this, Republicans are fixated on repealing it and a true fix cannot be found.
While the ACA is generating all the headlines out of Washington, Jenkins says the real issue Congress should be fixing is the debt. He feels that every option should be on the table in order to solve the debt crisis and that Congress needs to "stop kicking it down the road" as they have continued to do for the past several years.
When asked what, besides the debt, needed to be focused on, Jenkins pointed to the rules of Congress itself.
Right now, Congress effectively eliminates any minority voices and lawmakers need to look to local government to see how to effectively govern. He feels that everyone elected to Congress needs to be given a true chance to participate and craft meaningful legislation that could be discussed on the floor.
"Congress needs to become more democratic," he firmly stated. He added that people also need to start holding Congress accountable.
Jim Jenkins isn't running to just make a statement. He feels that he has a very real chance to win and that he is in the right state at the right time. However, he believes this is really bigger than just one race and hopes his campaign can help open up the political system and create an uprising that combats lingering apathy among voters.
Photo Credit: Jim Jenkins for U.S. Senate / Facebook